In their online communications, K-pop fans around the world like to use popular Korean slang words in their Romanized form rather than translating them into their own language. This is because they can’t fully appreciate or enjoy the cultural nuances, meaning and wit of the original word in translation. Hence, the new cultural phenomenon characterizing the worldwide bond among K-pop fans. The language they use has been dubbed “Dolminjeongeum,” a compound of “idol” (the common term for a mainstream K-pop act) and “Hunmingjeongeum” (the original name of Hangeul, or the Korean alphabet). Here are some popular Dolminjeongeum words and examples of their usage.
Originally a noun meaning “great success,” it is now more commonly used by young people as an exclamation of surprise or delight when something awesome happens. The word frequently appears in TV drama dialogues and variety show captions, so most fans of Korean popular culture are familiar with it.
Daebak! BTS’ “Butter” topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
This is a term originally used by a female member of the family to address an older male sibling, but these days is widely used by women to refer to a close male acquaintance outside of the family. Female fans of K-pop like to address their favorite male artist as “oppa.” Young women also call their boyfriend or husband “oppa,” although some object to this usage.
That oppa sure can dance. Such a pity he can’t sing, though.
A combination of the English word “mental” and Korean word “bunggoe” (meaning “breakdown”), this is used when one finds oneself in a predicament or bewildered by a shocking event.
My favorite idol group is breaking up. I’mmenbung.
An interjection used in a wide variety of situations, such as when one is in pain or physically exhausted, happy to see someone, surprised or stunned, flustered, or even in despair. It can also be used in lament when scolding someone. Although many Koreans associate it with older generations, others regard it as a fun word that has a nice ring to it.
Aigo the heat is killing me.
A cute and charming way of acting. Traditionally, it was considered an attribute women should have; conversely, men who displayed aegyo were frowned upon as being unmanly. However, the term has now become gender neutral, referring to both men and women who act adorable. It’s an essential part of K-pop fans’ vocabulary.
The youngest member of that boy group has a lot of aegyo.
The youngest sibling, or the youngest person in an organization or group. The maknae in the family or group is seen as someone who complies with the demands of older members, and whose faults or mistakes are overlooked. K-pop fans like to sort the members of idol groups by comparative age, distinguishing older members (called hyeong between males and eonni between females) and younger members (dongsaeng).
Hey maknae, can you get me a glass of water?
A member of an idol group who isn’t actually the youngest, but acts or looks the part. When older members act like a maknae, it helps lighten the mood and boost camaraderie. There is also the expression “evil maknae,” referring to an atypical maknae who is mischievous and likes to shock older members. The term is a neologism coined by K-pop fans combining Korean and English.
He’s over 30? But he looks the youngest. Definitely a fake maknae!
This word means “cute.” The proper Romanization is gwiyeopda, but global K-pop fans have changed it to kyeopta, which is easier for them to pronounce.
This puppy is really kyeopta.
The dictionary definition of “jagi” is a noun referring to oneself. It can also be used as a third-person pronoun referring to someone previously mentioned. So, in essence, the case particle “ya,” which is used to address another person, cannot be added to this word. However, in colloquial Korean, “jagiya” is commonly used as an affectionate term of address for a boyfriend, girlfriend or spouse. K-pop fans tend to use the term as a noun, as in “My Korean jagiya.”
Jagiya, sleep tight. Meet me in your dreams.
Short for “sasaenghwal,” which means “private life,” this word refers to an obsessive fan who follows their favorite celebrity’s every move, with no qualms about intruding on their private life. Some examples of sasaeng acts include constantly sending text messages, secretly taking pictures and even breaking into an idol’s house. The more personal information one has on a celebrity, the greater one’s clout within the fandom, and this apparently motivates manic behavior.
Guys, let’s never, ever become like one of those sasaeng fans!
The ability to quickly read the room or the mood of others. People with nunchi tend to make good first impressions and get along well with others, which is why it’s considered an essential trait for career success. The word can also be used in a negative context, such as when someone is so excessively self-conscious of what others think that they are unable to act like themselves.
Tae-hyeong has nunchi and always knows why I’m upset right away.